Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

How the BBC Manufactured ‘Hate’, by Jack Krak – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on January 9, 2019

I watched the show when it first aired at the end of May. I had been dreading it, but my dread turned to shock when I heard what the episode was called: “Stadiums of Hate.” They had come up with a suitably provocative title for their contrived, deliberately misleading fairy tale about a football culture permeated with vile racism.

Editor’s Introduction: This article is about events that took place in 2012, but anyone who follows the news closely knows that nothing has changed. This is a remarkable account by someone who had an inside look at deliberate falsifications by what was once one of the most respected names in journalism.

In May of 2012, the BBC Panorama program broadcast a documentary about “racism” in the host countries of the 2012 European soccer championship: Poland and Ukraine. Those two countries were about to stage the second biggest event in the sport after the World Cup, and legions of journalists had arrived to cover it. The purpose of the BBC program—aired strategically one week before the opening match—was to argue that neither country was qualified to host the tournament because of their “hateful” soccer cultures. The message: All-white countries are hotbeds of violent racism, and non-white fans and players would be in danger.

I know a lot about the Panorama program because I helped produce it. I saw what is arguably the world’s most famous and trusted media organization fabricate a false, sensationalist story. Through outright distortion—and by using only those pieces that fit its predetermined views—the BBC “documented” the vicious attitudes of people who live in countries that are not sufficiently “diverse.” The program had a scripted conclusion before a single camera was turned on.

Panorama is the BBC’s flagship investigative program. It is the longest-running such production in the world, having been on the air since 1953. The closest thing to it on American television is probably 60 MinutesPanorama enjoys a reputation for hard-hitting and serious investigative journalism.

About three months before the tournament began, a BBC journalist got in touch with me through mutual media contacts and asked me to help with the part to be filmed in Poland. He said the program would be about aspects of the football culture—hooliganism, trouble at stadiums, etc.—that could cause problems for players and fans alike. This topic is something of a hobby of mine, and I have followed it carefully during my time in Poland. The BBC wanted me to be a “fixer”—the person on the ground who arranges things in advance for the production team. That meant setting up interviews, scouting filming locations, getting press passes and access to events, arranging transport, and a hundred other odds and ends. I was also expected to contribute ideas based on my knowledge.

I suspected right from the start that they wanted things that make for good television rather than a true investigation—conflict, tension, etc.—but I was somewhat reassured because this was the BBC. Despite my reservations, I never thought they would make the television equivalent of sensationalist trashy tabloid headlines…

There is a curious “Jewish” angle to Polish football that is easily misunderstood. Fans chant nasty things about Jews, but, strange as it may seem, it’s not accurate to call it serious anti-Semitism.

Many of the older clubs originally had or are thought to have had Jewish financial backing. This is almost certainly true of the team in Lodz—called Widzew Łódź—since that city had a large Jewish population before the Second World War. These origins have become a source of cheap name calling for people who seize on any excuse to trade insults. When fans chant “death to the Jews,” it sounds shocking—and it certainly is brutish—but this is mainly a way of attacking the other team rather than Jews.

There has been a similar situation with the London football club Tottenham Hotspur, which has had Jewish owners. Fans of rival clubs started chanting about the “Jewish” team. Tottenham supporters eventually embraced this and some even call themselves the “Yid Army.” The fans of one Polish club, Cracovia, were in the same position and did the same thing, now proudly calling themselves the “Jewish Sons of Bitches.” When I told the BBC about that, they weren’t interested.

Needless to say, there is a lot of anti-Jewish chanting in the final Panorama program, but it is presented without explanation. It falsely makes the fans look as though they want to send Jews to the ovens.

The Star of David is now used so much in soccer graffiti that a Polish teacher I met told me that the children in his class associate it with the sport. He also had a friend from Israel, so this seemed like gold for the BBC: a poignant combination of children, the star of David, racism, and a chance to talk to another Israeli and get what they missed from Aviram Baruchian…

The BBC had dropped all pretense about what they were after—at least with me—though they kept up the charade of a neutral investigation with others.

The crew decided to come see a match in the city of Łódź between ŁKS Łódź and Widzew Łódź. Like the previous game in Warsaw, this was a derby, that is to say, a contest between two clubs in the same city. Derbies typically have the most intense atmosphere, and thus an elevated chance of the kind of incident the BBC was looking for.

Widzew had two Nigerian players, Princewill Okachi and Ugo Ukah, and the BBC wanted first-hand accounts of mistreatment. Mr. Ukah was of particular interest because he had played for Queens Park Rangers in London and could compare his treatment in diverse, tolerant, multicultural England with that of all-white, wicked Poland. Also, there would be two black men on the visiting team in a contest famous for its wild fans. Everything was lined up perfectly to provide the missing “substance.”

I asked the BBC specifically what they wanted me to tell the press officer of Widzew and they told me to say we were interested in Poland’s preparation for the Euro 2012 tournament. Someone else on the production team, who had also been in contact with Widzew by e-mail, sent me this note:

They don’t know at this stage we want to specifically talk about racism in Polish football and their [the black players’] own personal experiences of abuse, so be prepared to schmuz [sic] and impress.

“At this stage” was after the club had agreed to make the players available—on Easter Sunday, no less, to fit our tight schedule. We were supposed to “schmuz and impress” rather than be forthright about the reason for the interview. I remember wondering how often the BBC gets access and interviews under false pretenses. To my shame, I was helping set the trap.

Łódź was the BBC’s last chance to find anti-black “racism.” The broadcast date for the final program was already booked and Panorama was fully committed to a headline-grabbing account of the dark, racist side of what was soon to be Europe’s biggest sporting stage. But they had no racism…

I watched the show when it first aired at the end of May. I had been dreading it, but my dread turned to shock when I heard what the episode was called: “Stadiums of Hate.” They had come up with a suitably provocative title for their contrived, deliberately misleading fairy tale about a football culture permeated with vile racism.

The program has disappeared from YouTube; it appears to be available only this much less trafficked site. But when it was broadcast, it made national headlines in Poland. The country’s biggest television channel took the extraordinary step of broadcasting it just days later, dubbed in Polish.

Many Poles were outraged at what they recognized as a vicious smear. It is worth noting that within a week or so, every single person who appeared on camera in the Polish part of the program claimed publicly to have been misrepresented. This includes Jonathan Ornstein, the director of the Jewish Community Center of Krakow. I was present for the interview with him, and he gave thoughtful answers to all of Chris Rogers’ questions, always emphasizing that ugly graffiti and idiots making trouble at stadiums do not represent larger Polish attitudes. In the program, however, he seems to be leading the charge against horrible, hateful, anti-Semitic Poland. Mr. Ornstein told me personally how disgusted he was by how his interview was cut apart and stitched back together.

Even Jacek Purski, director of Never Again, an organization dedicated to monitoring racism in Poland, says the program was one-sided. When a “watchdog” group calls a television program “one-sided,” you can be sure it was outrageous.

The Polish government demanded a clarification from the BBC, and even the foreign minister complained. Newspapers throughout Europe expressed skepticism, and reader comments left online were overwhelmingly outraged. The BBC took the very unusual step of publicly responding to criticism.

Then the BBC got a huge break from Barack Obama, of all people. During a ceremony at the White House honoring someone who had survived Auschwitz, Mr. Obama referred to it as a “Polish death camp” rather than a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. Angry demands for an apology from the US government pushed “Stadiums of Hate” off the front page. After that, the relentless media cycle quickly relegated the whole affair to yesterday’s news.

Today, criticism of the “Stadiums of Hate” episode takes up more space on the Wikipedia page for Panorama than any other episode in its history. As the doubts and questions mounted, the BBC seems to have taken pains to get copies off the internet. There are any number of other full episodes of Panorama on YouTube, but not this one…

Be seeing you




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: